Sokaogon Chippewa, Wisconsin tribes ask for power to open charter schools Submitted: 04/13/2015
MOLE LAKE - Public school districts in Wisconsin can open charter schools. So can one city, a technical college, and two University of Wisconsin system schools. This school year, more than 240 of those charter schools are up and running. But none of Wisconsin's 11 Indian tribes are allowed to open charter schools, and several of Wisconsin's tribes want to change that policy.

In his State of the Tribes address last month, Sokogon Chippewa Community Tribal Chairman Chris McGeshick pushed the state legislature to allow the tribes to establish charter schools. McGeshick thinks a tribal charter school education could offer students a more targeted experience than they would get from other schools. "It's more focused on the Sokaogon Chippewa culture and the Ojibwe language," McGeshick said. "But we also work with very closely with our brothers and sisters and neighbors of the Forest County Potawatomi." Since 1989, a law called Act 31 has required Wisconsin schools to teach native history and culture. But many schools don't tailor their lessons to teach specifically about tribes in their geographic area. "You're not receiving a culturally sensitive education as it pertains to if you're a Menominee tribal member versus a Potawatomi tribal member or a Chippewa tribal member," McGeshick said. On the Sokaogon Chippewa reservation in Mole Lake, you might be surprised to learn which groups are most vocal about their desire for more cultural and language education. "We hear it from the parents, but we also hear it from the youth themselves," McGeshick said. "They want to know these things. They want to learn these things." McGeshick thinks any Mole Lake charter school likely wouldn't offer a full-day, every day education like a more traditional school. Instead, it would feature language and culture programs only during selected times of the day or certain days of a week. McGeshick said the school would the cultural education to any student who wanted to learn. "Not only for tribal members but for members of the community, whether it's Crandon, or Rhinelander, or Elcho," he said. "If their students want to come and learn the language and learn about the culture, that would be something that would be opened up to all of them." McGeshick said the Menominee Nation and the Lac Courte Oreilles tribe also expressed interest in opening tribal charter schools.

Story By: Ben Meyer

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